Thursday, February 19, 2009

Behind the Scenes and On the Road with the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art

By: Michelle Murdock, Curator of Exhibitions
I’m often asked, “So, what do you do when the museum’s closed for the winter?”
The magic of exhibitions is what happens in the winter, behind the scenes. When Fenimore is closed from January through March, everything happens! Last year’s artworks are either stored or shipped back to their owners, a fresh coat of paint is applied, new artworks and labels are installed, and the lights are positioned for our annual April 1 opening.
Every year brings several new and exciting projects in the exhibitions department and this year is no exception. Fenimore Art Museum is organizing a national tour of the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art. The Exhibitions team recently dismantled the 2500 square foot gallery, storing every artwork in other locations, and embarked on the work for the national tour that will take us the remainder of the year.
We are preparing the artworks that will travel while the gallery is renovated and painted. Some need to be professionally photographed, some need a bit of careful conservation, some need new mounts. The list of artworks that will travel was decided many months ago.
Working with the museums that will borrow our exhibition is very exciting, too. They are as thrilled to host these amazing artworks as we are to share them with the nation. After all, the Thaw Collection is the premier collection of Native American Art in the world. But for me, the logistics of such an adventure are just as energizing. I love talking with the host museums about their needs and all the intricate details of our exhibition – from mounts that support the artworks, to crates that embrace them in transit, to providing digital images of them, to making travel arrangements for our team to install the exhibition at the host venues – I love it all.
Soon, we will re-install the artworks that will hold down the home front while the others are on tour. A gallery this large filled with three-dimensional art takes a while to regain perfection, but it’s fun work.
I’m honored to be able to share this remarkable collection of art with the nation. I hope you’ll be able to see it at one of the venues in the next three years. We’ll announce the venues on our Facebook page and our website soon. And of course, it’s always on view right here in Cooperstown!

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